The Coffee Tavern and Institute
The Lansdown and Tivoli Coffee Tavern was opened in 1879 in Tivoli Place, Cheltenham, not as a parochial institute but as an “influence
in the case of Temperance amongst the inhabitants of St Stephens parish”. Tickets which could be redeemed at the Tavern were often given as “tips” to “workmen, coal hauliers and messengers”.
In 1890 the Coffee Tavern Company was offered the basement of the Tivoli Institute in Tivoli Street, Cheltenham. On Wednesday 28th June 1890 the Coffee Tavern reopened in its new premises “and in order that
all the Inebriates in our parish might have an opportunity of making a fresh start with the Tavern, the Good Templars commenced what is now known as the Tivolian League of good Templars. We hope that all members of the St Stephens will look at the inside of
the Tavern and drink to its success in a full and fragrant cup of tea”.
Coffee Taverns were started in Cheltenham by Major Kington and some “ladies and Gentlemen who most nobly and kindly assisted him”.
There aim was to provide a place for strangers, the lonely or visitors, who wish to find somewhere to spend a sociable hour or two without having to resort to public houses. Tivoli was the fifth such coffee house opened in Cheltenham. In addition to providing
refreshments from 5am until 10.30pm – “non intoxicating alone sold” – and meals ranging from “rice pudding and cakes at 1d (penny) per portion” to chops or steaks and afternoon tea at 3d (pence) per
head, the Tavern was also used as the Parish Library and as a depositing station for the Provident Clothing and Coal Club.
The institute building to which the Coffee Tavern moved in 1890 was basically the home of the Church
of England Temperance Society in Tivoli; the St Stephens branch was formed in 1894.
The Vicar and church wardens took out a lease on the Institute and the cottages adjoining in 1890 and it was the lower room of the former
building which housed the Tavern, the cottage providing accommodation for the manager.
From 1891 the Institute provided reading and recreation rooms for the parishioners. In September of that year it was decided that the
Institute was to be regarded as entirely distinct from the Temperance Society so as to enable those who wished to use the Institute’s facilities - “the rooms are large and well supplied with Newspapers and periodicals” – to
do so without incurring any other obligations whatsoever. The Institute was opened from 10.30pm daily. Thus the Institute and Coffee Tavern were run independently of each other.
In November 1902 it was decided to call premises
“The St Stephens Parish Rooms and Institute” because the Tavern as a separate agency could not be kept up without running into debt. It was hoped that the rent could be maintained through the continued contributions of the Tavern subscribers
and the parochial agencies which met in the parish rooms. These included the Men’s club, boys’ Sunday School (girls and infants met at the Hall), Bible class for young men, Mothers’ Meetings and Parish Library.
In 1904 the premise were bought from the landlord for £500 and vested in three trustees “for the permanent use and benefit of the Church and Parish of St Stephen’s”.
In 1914 the
loan for the purchase had not been completely repaid and the Trust was ended; the building was transferred to the Diocesan Trustees with a special request that a “Men’s club should, if possible, be always maintained there”.
In 1955 the Diocesan Trustees offered to sell the property to the Men’s Club as it had become uneconomic to carry on the two properties. The Charity Commissioners, with whom the property had long before been registered,
agreed to the sale for £1,250 and the transaction was completed by September 1956.
The Coffee Tavern and Institute is now the St Stephens Sports and Social Club.
well as retaining strong cricketing links the club also boasts two of the finest snooker tables in Cheltenham which are located in a room that looks as if it has come out of a 1930s movie.